With today being All Saints’ Day and tomorrow All Souls’ Day, let us call to mind how what follows was very much a part of the lives of those saints and beloved departed.
I have often felt that prayer is painful because I would ask God for what I wanted, and then automatically think that the answer would be ‘no’ or ‘not yet’. I would pray with tension in my body because I always felt like a beggar – wanting, hoping, petitioning, waiting, and then repeating the cycle over and over. Somehow, I would just naturally feel that God would not listen to me because I was not worth being granted the answer I deeply desired. Because of this, I became a scared supplicant rather than a trusting daughter of God. It is a daily battle.
When we pray, our minds can play all sorts of tricks on us – and of course satan is ever trying to lead us to distraction, hopelessness, and depression. It can feel hard to let things be – to relax, be expectant, and just trust that something good will happen because God always wants what is best for us and knows what we need. He loves us, even if we do not know what the final answer will look like. I have heard and read how people say that life changed for them the very second they decided to say ‘yes’ to God’s love.
In that moment, they just accepted.
Why can acceptance be so hard for many of us?
I believe it can be a challenge for us because we feel that we do not deserve His love. Our past sins feel like a giant thick wall that we cannot get over. We do not trust God enough, or believe that He wants us as imperfect as we are. We need to know that He is the power – the sledgehammer if you like – that smashes down that wall of sin if we return to Him and let Him.
We spend most of our lives trying to prove ourselves, please people, compete with others, and survive. We feel that we must work hard to earn whatever we want because modern life is not meant to be a free ride, or so we are constantly reminded. We do not want to be seen as vulnerable, needy, and weak. We want to be strong, independent, and resilient people.
To accept God’s unconditional love – a love that is freely given because His Son willingly paid the price for us – is too stupendous for our little minds to grasp. We can spend a lifetime studying and discussing this in all of the theology classes of the world, but until we see Him face-to-face, we will never fully understand the depths of this love.
This is where grace and humility is also necessary to help us say: ‘Yes, God, I accept your love’, and forget about ourselves. We accept because God knows how we are trying our best and that we want to make progress. We accept even though we sin in a thousand tiny and not so tiny ways every day – as long as we keep returning to Him. We accept because He created us and knows us better than we can ever know ourselves.
It is also so important that we set aside time to pray and read about the lives of the saints, to learn from their wisdom. We need their help and can model our lives on theirs. They were not superhuman beings. They were regular people just like us, but accepted God’s love despite their shortcomings, obstacles, and any evils that assailed them. They prayed and did not give up because they knew that God loved them and would never stop loving them. They developed virtues through unceasing prayer, sacrifice, humility, good works, and a determination to tread the narrow and rocky path to heaven. They did not take their eyes off the prize of Christ.
If we do not accept God’s love and we have doubts about Him even hearing us, or do not believe with a childlike faith that He really wants the best for us, then we will become our own obstacle to obtaining the very responses we hope for. If we do not accept the fundamental truths about God’s nature – that He is all goodness, all love, all pure, all caring, all forgiving, merciful, and fully attentive to us, then it is no wonder that our prayers are not answered!
Acceptance means we must always say ‘yes’ to God’s love by remembering Who God is – not us.
Acceptance looks like a bird, flying high in a clear blue sky because it trusts that the wind beneath its wings will be enough to sustain it.
Acceptance looks like the changing seasons, knowing that even if the world looks dull, grey, and dead in winter, the promise of renewal in spring is coming.
Acceptance smiles like a loved baby, trusting that mummy and daddy will always provide.
So now when I pray and start to worry if God will answer me, or I feel that I am not good enough for His love and attention, I stop, forget myself, and remember Who He is. I know that I can hold onto the truth of His Word and character in the Bible. I can trust Him without fail. So can you.